An appellate court ruled Wednesday that Community Unit School District 155 officials should have gone through Crystal Lake's zoning process before building a bleacher expansion at Crystal Lake South High School last summer.
The ruling upholds a decision made by McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel in late 2013.
Property owners who backed up to the bleachers, including McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi, sued the district last year.
The lawsuit argued the $1.2 million bleachers were too high and too close to nearby homes and that the district failed to first get permission from the city before building the structure.
"Our position has always been that the school district has to go through the zoning process of the city," said Bianchi, who sued as a private resident. "I'm pleased, not surprised. I expected this under the law."
School officials argued that they are not subject to the city's zoning, and the regional superintendent of education had authority in this case.
The appellate panel disagreed.
"The (school) board contends that because its territory spans two counties and provides services to 10 municipalities, it should be accorded the status of a regional government entity. We find the board's proposition to be off point," the panel wrote. "The issue here is whether the city's zoning ordinances apply to Crystal Lake South's reconstructed bleachers. Requiring uniformity to the city's zoning ordinances will not prevent the board and district from carrying out their duties to provide public education."
Robert Swain, an attorney for the school district, said he could not yet comment on the appellate ruling.
"We're still reviewing it with the district," Swain said.
The matter is due back in court Friday, where Chmiel could instruct the district to work with residents and the city and go through the zoning process or take other action.